Backpacker Reviews "Stranded With a Million Dollars": Week 3

In which our millennial heroes steal each other’s potatoes.
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In which our millennial heroes steal each other’s potatoes.

Welcome back, devoted survivalists and unashamed crack TV viewers! It has been one interminable week since we last caught up with our millennial heroes on MTV’s Stranded With a Million Dollars. To refresh on Week 2, go here, and, as always, be forewarned that there are spoilers ahead.

So, when we last left off, two more contestants had flared out (total now at 7), two alliances had formed (known as Team Spend Money and Team Don’t Spend Money), Makani had taken a river bath, and Cody had continued in his jerkish ways, which was totally exacerbated by the fact that he’s now wearing those zip-off pants that your dad wears.

And, yes, this is a survival show, but it’s also a game show. So, let it be known that we, the very official, very important millennials of BACKPACKER, understand that goal #1 is to survive and not flare out, but goal #2 is to make mo’ money, which is why we’re coming around to Cody’s and Chris’s devilish ways. Let’s begin.

We’re 8 days stranded (out of 40) with a current purse of $65,000. We could list out everything that everyone has bought, but it’d be filibuster-long, so just know that it includes pizza and ponchos.

The team is preparing for their next fastpacking adventure; every 3 or so days, they must follow a crude iPad map to their next campsite within a certain timeframe to make $100,000 more for the prize pool/pizza budget. But alas, after Team Spend Money’s binge shopping event last episode, the group is now responsible for lugging a bunch of crap, including a stockpot and two-person tent, sans backpack. And suddenly, everyone who’s ever had to carry an obstinate child on a hike without a kid carrier is like, “I know that forearm burn.”

The survivalists must travel 2.6 kilometers (or 1.6 miles) in 2 and a half hours to earn the $100,000 stash. The route (as seen from the trusty iPad) involves a “river crossing,” “wild boar habitat,” “uphill slide,” and “coconut plantation,” as it appears to wend back up and over the ridge to the beach from whence they came in the first episode. As before, we’re dubious of the navigation prowess in this lot, but still believe 1.6 miles in 2.5 hours, on- or off-trail, is easily doable.

First obstacle: the river crossing. It’s not whitewater by any means (in fact, it looks more like old man Willy’s chocolate river), but it is moving and it’s nearly 50 feet wide. Our friends start the conga line across the knee-deep water and while we’re a little affronted that no one chooses to take his or her shoes off first, they do link arms in a random act of wilderness prowess. (To learn the BACKPACKER way, also known as the right way, watch this video.) Also, looks like Eilish is wearing skinny jeans, which makes us want to hide in a hole and page through these archives for sanity.

The group makes it through “wild boar habitat” without incident, and, boom, we’re at “uphill slide.” MTV alerts us that it’s filled with “slick, razor-sharp grass” and that the elevation gain is some 250 feet—and it actually looks pretty ridiculous. It’s like a 50-degree wall of greenery, as though the contestants had to climb out of the Secret Garden hand over hand. Almost immediately, Gina impales herself on a mystery spiky thing, but she pulls through and the crew makes it to the dolla dolla bills. New prize total: $165,000.

At camp, Alex gets to work combing the area for a possible water source (very sur-thrival of him), while Team Don’t Spend Money (Unless It’s on Ponchos), aka Cody, Chris, and Makani, set out to make a shelter. It’s actually pretty good. The quality of the Episode 1 palm-frond shelter versus the Episode 3 Lincoln-Log specialty may be the biggest swing since Pennsylvania went red (too soon?). Their crude shelter (with a poncho awning) seems to keep them just as dry as the tent team, which somehow manages to squeeze four people into a two-person tent. (Should you try to do the same in your backcountry endeavors, peruse for a tent with key word “livability.”)

In the morning, our friend Chris says, “I just really want to emphasize it’s not, like, the physical s***, but just, like, mentally, sleeping outside in, like, in the nighttime, this s*** is just, like, crazy.” We think this means he doesn’t like camping. And we are sad. Cody tells him that maybe now he’ll get in a groove and stop making “rookie mistakes,” and we want to agree with Cody, but we also want more drama, so we aren’t sure. Chris then laments that not even the new gear is making him happy.

Our fav tablet dings and it’s time for another group buy. Last time, our millennials spent $105,000. Makani, the river woman, antagonizes Eilish, the team mom, suggesting she buy a crown, but, ultimately, the crew settles on a $20,000 duffel bag.

Next, some rare airtime for Alonzo, a military guy. He confesses that he has PTSD, and we in Boulder hope he can walk it off. Stay strong, Alonzo!

Alex starts searching the campsite for food and happens upon some cassavas. Team Spend Money starts a fire with the handydandy fire-starter that was purchased last week (for $35,000!), then heads down to the river to fetch water, which, as everyone knows, is the worst camp chore EVER. On cue, Makani and Cody eat the unsupervised boiled potatoes.

Ding! Time for the third Temptation. Alonzo is selected and he picks Eilish, the non-crown-wearing member of Team Spend Money, to join him in a random cabana in the woods (yes, it’s weird). Alex doesn’t appear salty, but we assume there is a bit of bromance lost here. The Temptation is a $5,000 medley of snacks and bathroom use or a $15,000 collection of meals and full-on spa treatment. It looks like a Hilton, and Alonzo starts stressing. His mantra has been loyalty through and through, so, in the weirdest turn of events, ALONZO SAYS NO. TO BOTH. We <3 Alonzo. Alonzo can make Team Spend Money great again!

Ding, ding, ding! It’s our favorite iPad informing us that a massive storm is about to hit—so feel free to buy more things. (Since it’s a “Flash Sale,” everything is 50% off.) An interesting connection (bad weather and binge shopping), but consider it another temptation because suddenly the millennials are arguing whether or not they should buy a tarp ($15,000) or a jar of peanut butter ($3,750). Team Boulder is affronted that apparently a tarp has been on the table the whole time and yet not purchased—so many uses and so light!

And then Team Spend Money, which still has a majority, speaks up and peanut butter it is. The drone drops off the peanut butter, and it’s actually kind of uncomfortable to watch. All 7 contestants are deep into it and we feel kind of voyeuristic.

The rain begins and the Lincoln Log house promptly collapses on Cody, Chris, and Makani, while Team Spend Money is chilling in the two-person tent. “That f****** peanut butter is really helping us with the flashflood right now,” Chris laments as the three tentless survivors wallow in the rain. They don’t even try to find shelter; they just sit in it, which is an interesting strategy that doesn’t last long. Bang goes the flare gun, and Chris “loses the dream,” as Cody puts it.

Chris survived 11 days and 3 hours, and we take a selfie in his honor.

Makani awakes from her palm-frond-shelter-turned-bivy at daybreak and peers out to see Chris, who flared out during the night’s deluge (see above), sitting on a log. Evidently, MTV SAR doesn’t operate during the evening hours, so the poor dude had to wait until morning. He lasted 11 days and 3 hours until firing a flare gun—but 11 days and some 6 or 7 hours before actually leaving.

Chris’s departure kind of ruins any chance Team Don’t Spend Money (Unless it’s on Ponchos) had of equaling the playing field (it was 4-on-3, and now it’s 4-on-2), but he makes a good point on his way out: “If you make it the 40 days, supplies or no supplies, you definitely deserve the money at the end.” We salute your wisdom, Chris, and sincerely hope maybe you’ll come around to camping. Perhaps these trips will help?

Current rankings
(Reminder: the scale is 1-10, where 1 is “just barely surviving” and 10 is “totally sur-thriving”):

Alex: 6 (His alliance has the solid majority, which is good for surviving and bad for the wallet. We like that he considers things like water and food when the contestants get to a new camp.)

Alonzo: 7 (He also is in the majority Team Spend Money + he turned down a Temptation. Team player.)

Cody: 8 (He lost a good man out there in Chris, but he’s still unshakeable and still has a poncho.)

Eilish: 4 (She’s not really thriving, but she’s not really complaining.)

Gina: 3 (Girl had no airtime, which is maybe good? Why is she still here?)

Natalie “Makani”: 8 (She got catty this episode.)

Michael: 0

Ashley: 0

Bria: 0

Chris: 0

Tune in next week; the fourth episode will air on Tuesday night at 10 p.m ET/PT. Follow up on our Stranded With a Million Dollars review page to read our next recap on Wednesday.